Photo credit: Reuters

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Smearing Snowden: The Problem With Government

Dear Mr. President,
On Sunday’s “Meet the Press”, Representative Mike Rogers and Senator Dianne Feinstein, both arch-defenders of the NSA and doing their best to destroy democracy, accused Edward Snowden of being a spy for Russia. Not a shred of evidence to back up their claim but treated as newsworthy nevertheless. Of course, they in turn provide a platform for the likes of Gen. “Star Wars” Alexander and self-confessed perjurer, James Clapper, to lie, distort and obfuscate what they’re doing to undermine the Constitution and the rule of law. But they all take their cues from the Liar-in-Chief who sits in the Oval Office, flies around in Air Force One from one fund-raiser to another, protected by an entourage of heavily armed guards in heavily armored limos and SUVs, local police barricading off his route so he won’t have to see or hear angry protesters and the hopeless and desperate faces of Americans who want him to listen to their pleas to save the environment or their jobs or their social safety net. Moving from one multimillion dollar event to another, politicians no longer are in touch with We the People, if they ever were. The transition is complete: government by the 1%, of the 1% and for the 1%. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that last year more than half of our senators and representatives are millionaires, as are you, with an average net worth for all lawmakers now more than $7 million. And when you’ve got a net worth of $7 million, it’s hard to feel the pain of the average Joe and Jane who’s lost their job and run out of unemployment benefits, had their food stamps cut along with their child’s healthcare program. It’s easy then, to take away benefits from the poor and increase subsidies for your rich patrons and friends. Paul Krugman had an interesting column in Monday’s NYT called “The Undeserving Rich.” How the myth of “rags-to-riches” is no longer valid and how the rich really aren’t deserving at all, but the myth persists, fueled by plutocrats who buy the media and the politicians who do their bidding and keep the myth alive that if anyone fails to find a good-paying job, then it must be their own damn fault. We have class warfare going on in the U.S. of A. all right and it’s the plutocrats who are waging it and winning it and it’s clear whose side you’re on. I want to see a plumber representing me in the House, a carpenter in the Senate and a taxi driver in the Oval Office. That’s when we’ll have representative government again.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Truth of War

Dear Mr. President,
“I ended the war in Iraq.” You’ve made that claim many times but what’s missing from that boast are two key words at the end: “for us,” for the war we started continues to rage for Iraqis. Now, with the fall of Fallujah, Iraq is back on the front page of the NYT (“Fallujah’s Fall Stuns Marines Who Fought There” Jan. 10). Vets who fought there are divided into those who blame you for not keeping troops there and those who blame Bush for getting us into a dubious war in the first place. But no matter which side you’re on, the truth of that war—and all wars—is made manifest in the statement of James Cathcart, an ex-Marine who fought there in 2004: “Lives were wasted and now everyone back home sees that.” You called Iraq a dumb war and opposed it as a presidential candidate, but Robert Gates’ new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” reveals that your opposition was political, not moral, that you and Hilary both opposed Bush’s surge in Iraq only for political gain during the 2008 presidential primary campaign. The book also reveals that, as president, you opened a March 2011 meeting at the White House by “expressing doubts about Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander he had chosen, and questioning whether he could do business with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his…” And yet three years later the only thing changed is the military commander in Afghanistan. The war grinds on, lives are destroyed, hatreds grow, billions are wasted and only the merchants of death profit. What becomes clear is the immorality of politicians like you, those who send others into combat, who use war as a political tool to gain and maintain power. The cynicism and hypocrisy of you and Hilary sharing admissions that your opposition to war was purely political is so evil and so disgusting, that people everywhere should rise up and put an end to war. All wars are political, based on delusion, lies, and greed. The problem is that politicians have no skin in the game. In the words of Herbert Gold in his review of “The Deserters” by Charles Glass, they send young boys with “unripe hearts” to fight and die in wars promoted by false myths that glorify the sacrifice and courage of the young warrior, then ignore them when they return broken and shattered. No one wins in war and that is the real truth of war.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I want my America back!

Dear Mr. President,
An article in today’s NYT (“Court Grants Secrecy for Memo on Phone Data” p. A10) set me to thinking that there’s two kinds of laws and two kinds of government: the laws we think we have and the laws we really have; and the government we think we have and government we really have. Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that the Justice Department can withhold the secret memo that allows the government to collect, without a warrant or court order, the metadata of every phone call made in the U.S. That means it’s not We the People who have a right to privacy but the government. A lawyer for the organization which filed for access to the memo describes the secret memos from the Office of Legal Counsel—the same folks who justified torture and warrantless wiretapping for Bush—as a body of ‘secret law’…” The court rejected their argument that the secret memos amount to “the government’s official ‘working law’ and should not fall into the category of deliberative materials that are exempt from disclosure.” So now in addition to the government’s right to privacy and no right of privacy for the public, there’s a body of laws we think we’re being governed by and another body of laws that allow you and the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and all the other intelligence agencies to do whatever they damn well please and we have no right to see the laws because of legal mumbo-jumbo and national security. Well, I say fuck that! I want my democracy back, I want justice back and I want to know the laws and justifications under which my government operates. I want to know what law gives you the right to assassinate anyone anywhere, why we’re droning wedding parties in Yemen and funerals in Afghanistan and grandmothers and children in the mountains of Waziristan. What secret law justifies spending tens of billions to collect phone call information that has not detected or averted a single plot or attack? And what secret law justifies cutting child health care, food stamps and unemployment benefits while giving billions to totalitarian dictatorships? I want to see the justification for inequality and maldistribution of wealth and the one that justifies letting Detroit and Stockton and Harrison County go bankrupt and cutting pensions to pay off the Wall Street banksters. This is not the America I grew up in. This is what I was taught was totalitarianism where individuals have no rights and the government operates in secrecy with arbitrary laws. I want my America back!

Friday, January 3, 2014

January 3, 2014, Time to Start Cleaning House in America.

Dear Mr. President,
The New York Times, defender of the status quo and the Obama Administration, signaled a major shift in attitude in an editorial yesterday saying Edward Snowden has done the country (and the world) a great service by exposing the criminal activity of the NSA—violating privacy laws, lying to Congress, the FISA court and We the People—and calling on you to instruct your aides to stop vilifying him and either grant clemency or reduce charges. (In my opinion, there should be no charges and/or a pardon, although you have shown little compassion for others or for correcting injustice.) The disparity of justice in America could not be clearer than the government’s treatment of Snowden—ludicrously charged with espionage and theft—compared to Clapper, guilty of lying to Congress, a felony, but no charges and still in a position of power. The editorial quotes you at an August press conference: “If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistle-blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time,…So there were other avenues available…” But, the editors point out, the law you signed did not apply to contractors like Snowden. How typical of you to tell half-truths. You also said he should have reported his concerns to his supervisors. He did, but they ignored him, for they saw no violation of law. Come home and face justice, you and other Snowden critics say, but even the Times knows better: “When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.” It took the Times seven months to finally get it right. Rather, part of it right. The rest of it? That government officials like Clapper who break laws with no regard for truth or justice are the ones who should be tried as criminals. That those congressional representatives who protect the criminal class of government officials, like Boehner, Feinstein and Rogers, should be recalled and removed from office for failure to uphold their oath of office. And finally, that the President himself should be impeached for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, for war crimes, for crimes against humanity and for failure to uphold the Constitution and guard the rights and protections it provides. January 3, 2014, time to start cleaning house in America.